Puerto Ricans unite in solidarity around the world calling for resignation of governor
By Angely Mercado
For the last week, protests have rocked Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan. They’re calling for governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign due to the negligence and carelessness he’s displayed towards Puerto Ricans. So far, he’s refused to step down.
The trending #RickyRenuncia started with leaked Telegram private chat messages where Rosselló and members of his cabinet made offensive and derogatory remarks. Two of Rosselló’s top aides were also arrested by the FBI this month for corruption. This during a time when public services are being slashed and privatized. Private companies and even university endowments have been profiting off of Puerto Rico’s debt for years. Many people from the island have left in droves to find opportunity elsewhere. Over 100,000 people left Puerto Rico after the hurricane according to a 2018 report on CNN.
It’s over a year and a half after the hurricane, and there are still issues with the island’s infrastructure. Relatives often tell me that their lights continue to randomly go off, and when it’s not their power, it’s their water. Every time I see something about Puerto Rico trending, I immediately check in on relatives and try to see what I can send over.
I remember so many family members ever since I was young saying, “la cosa esta mala” or “things are bad.” The inadequate healthcare and weak economy on the island have led to many of my relatives being fired from jobs they loved, or unable to pursue certain careers without leaving their home. The hurricane also meant not knowing for over a week where my family was and how they were doing since all power was out, and there was no internet connection. Many other Nuyoricans felt the same panic that I felt, as did other Caribbean enclaves in the United States and around the world.
We cried happy tears when our relatives finally texted or called us back, and we braced for the crisis after. My family had to send over money and supplies like a generator to relatives. The stress and pain of seeing family in Puerto Rico go through so much became worse when the current administration put Puerto Ricans on a back burner. While Puerto Ricans struggled to recover from the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, the President engaged in Twitter feuds with the Mayor of San Juan, who was criticizing the lack of aid to the island.
Then on July 8, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published a report with almost 900 pages of Telegram chats between Rosselló, his administrative officials, associates, and lobbyists. He called several women, including former New York City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, a “puta” or whore. There were homophobic comments, and an official made jokes about the bodies piling up in the morgues. They also talked about retaliating against reporters and even joked about shooting San Juan’s Mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz.
Puerto Ricans on the island took to the streets and to Twitter to declare “Ricky, Renuncia!” or “Ricky, Resign!” Puerto Ricans around the world took up the call too. I saw tweets from China, France, Sweden, and even New Zealand.
There were protests in cities all over the United States where there are large Caribbean enclaves, including New York City. Superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda came out to Union Square in Manhattan to protest the governor’s refusal to step down. There’s a song my dad showed me when I was younger called “Boricua en la Luna,” which means, “Puerto Rican on the Moon.” One of the song’s lyrics says “yo sería borincano aunque naciera en la luna.” It means “I’d be Puerto Rican even if I had been born on the moon.” I sometimes feel like foreign-born Puerto Ricans, Nuyoricans like myself, and others around the world feel that pull back to the Caribbean during times like these.
Love for Puerto Rico is in our music. It’s how my dad taught me to be proud to be Caribbean. He’s the reason why I know all the lyrics to “Lamento Borincano”, and why I’m so interested in colonial history and how it affects Latin America to this day. I learned to love and become involved in democracy, not just for myself but for my family in the Caribbean. thanks to artists who have taken a stand.
So many of us feel that pull to take a stand, and we see it with Puerto Rican artists act. I saw it when Bad Bunny sang “Estamos Bien” during his television debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” “More than 3,000 people died, and Trump is still in denial,” he said.
He took the time to remind people that so many Puerto Ricans didn’t have electricity over a year after the hurricane. Artists like Residente and Ricky Martin took to the streets of San Juan this week; Bad Bunny canceled some of his shows to join them. And during this week’s Premios Juventud, Daddy Yankee thanked his fans for supporting his career and then spoke about his support for Puerto Rico. He along with other Puerto Rican artists asked the governor to step down:
We all have seen what a corrupt government does. It’s more than just being frustrated at the abusive language. It’s knowing it leads to negligence from politicians which people should be able to look into during times of need. It’s not just joking about death. It’s politicians who were making fun of death when so many Puerto Rican families were in mourning, desperate to get medication and caring for sick relatives. It’s about stealing money from education funds and destroying a generation’s future.
We want a fair and democratic process on the island. We want elected officials chosen by the people, and also removed by the people when they are found to be incompetent and crooked. We want our relatives and friends who live in Puerto Rico to have a governor who isn’t corrupt. We want to know that the local government will protect them before, during, and after a natural disaster. That they will prioritize the average person’s health and education instead of kowtowing to private companies. And I personally want the island to have leadership that isn’t machista, or homophobic. Puerto Rican women and the queer community deserve better. And after years of mismanagement and mistreatment, the island deserves better.